What are Echo Layoffs? How Employers Can Manage Reorg Reverberations

Layoffs are often necessary in order for organizations to keep their doors open and the lights on. 

It’s not uncommon for organizations to run multiple rounds of layoffs, especially when making significant reductions in their workforce. 

But even the discussion of potential layoffs can have a negative impact on employee morale, engagement and productivity with very real consequences on profitability. 

Person standing facing mountains.

It has been reported that 49% of employees will likely begin a new job search upon hearing of potential layoffs, with 23% of employees admitting they’d become disengaged.  

This can worsen when an organization has run their first round of layoffs, and there are rumors of more rounds to come.

In order to mitigate disengagement and feelings of distrust, organizations need to be extra considerate as they navigate additional rounds of layoffs; even the smaller secondary rounds which we refer to as, echo layoffs.

What Are Echo Layoffs?

First30 CEO, Amy Davies, has coined the term echo layoffs – these are the subsequent rounds of layoffs to follow the first. They’re smaller than the initial layoff and unexpected, but they still have the power to  reverberate throughout an already disrupted organization, leaving employees feeling shaken and unsteady.

Why do Echo Layoffs happen?

Despite leaders’ best intentions, a few months after a large restructuring they will have more information about the impact of their decisions. They may find that some of the roles originally deemed necessary are no longer needed, or that people are moved into teams that aren’t a good fit. Sometimes employees who shift to a new role during a reorg are not capable of doing the new job well.

In our experience with clients, echo layoffs tend to occur about three months following the initial restructuring. 

We get it: the world is changing so quickly that it’s difficult to predict if another round of layoffs will be needed again whether it’s 3, 6, or even 12 months into the future. 

Here’s the Challenge Echo Layoffs Present

In order to improve productivity and support wellbeing, leaders will often rush to announce that after the layoff, the reorg is “over,” and everyone left behind is “safe,” only to run one or more small rounds of layoffs just a few months later.

We also know how damaging discussion of potential echo layoffs can be to employee engagement and trust. But what can be worse, and cause longer-term damage, is to act as though everything is OK and everyone’s jobs are secure.

This seems like a catch 22: trust is lost by discussing layoffs, yet trust is lost by trying to keep things positive.

In our work in outplacement, we’ve spoken to many employees impacted by a second round of layoffs they didn’t expect who have been utterly blindsided. This is often because despite leaders’ best intentions, these employees were assured that their jobs were safe.

Not only does this create greater shock when an echo layoff does have to happen, but it also damages trust with employees in the long term.

How To Approach Layoff Discussions with Employees

The keys to approaching potential layoff discussions with employees is honesty and transparency.

Your employees are adults, and will appreciate the candor. So consider sharing insights into why your organization is making changes. Share the strategy with them and what it means for the business. 

Some other tips for minimizing the shock, and ultimately the dip in engagement caused by layoffs, is to consider:

  • Setting the stage for change as early as interviewing and onboarding
  • Creating cross-training and professional development opportunities for employees so that you can also enable role shifts, rather than role eliminations
  • Providing working notice to employees impacted by layoffs to minimize shock, maintain dignity, and allow people the time to prepare and say their goodbyes 

Download our Strategies for Running Compassionate & Effective Layoffs eBook for more in-depth advice on how to prepare for layoffs.

Outplacement Preserves Employee Trust

When a layoff is inevitable, losing employee trust doesn’t have to be.

The most effective way to show exiting employees that you care, is to provide outplacement services to support them in transitioning to their next role.

Email us anytime to set up a brief, no-pressure call to learn more about how we can help your organization. Download our brochure with pricing HERE.

Planning layoffs? We offer meaingful, cost-effective outplacement services. Download our outplacement brochure with pricing here.
To speak with a member of our team for a confidential, no-pressure conversation, contact: info@first30ready.com.